What are the key facilities for MICE that Sri Lanka offers?
If I am talking about the BMICH, we are a sophisticated, world class venue. We have 32 indoor venues and we have 10 outdoor venues and we do everything that a hotel does – from a dinner for two to a banquet for 2,000 people and we cater to all types of events and we are very sophisticated in what we do and we have all the necessary equipment needed for a world-class convention centre. We have facilities for simultaneous translations into 7 languages and all our audio visual and technological systems are very up to date which can cater to global events.
Who are you competing with and what are your competitive advantages?
We compete with the rest of the region as MICE destination. When I say that South Asia- India, Bangladesh, Maldives, all the SAARC countries. Also, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and the far eastern countries. We are in close proximity especially to India and our competitive advantage is that we are a purpose-built facility with spacious grounds, gardens and car parking facility. We sit on 32 acres of landscaped gardens and land. We call ourselves an urban forest as we have a lot of greenery. In terms of the competitive advantage we are very cost effective in terms of our pricing when you compare with the facilities elsewhere in the region and especially for India I think it is more cost effective. In my personal view it is cost effective for Indians to come over to Sri Lanka to hold conferences, events and expositions rather than say from Delhi to travel to Chennai or to other parts of India because we are a lot cheaper and in terms of your foreign exchange you get more money for Indian Rupee I think we pay about nearly three rupees per Indian rupee or two and a half rupees so that is also an advantage for you. Just before the pandemic we hosted Maruti Suzuki All India Conference here and the award ceremony where about 1,000 people came here to our expo centre. And after which they also indulged in touristic activities, visiting different parts of the country too.
Which are the biggest markets right now and what place does India have in this?
I think India is the market leader then comes China and those are the two major providers from abroad. Of course, we have a lot of customers and business opportunities from within Sri Lanka as well. I will say very few from Europe, but I would say India is the biggest market for convention, exposition and conferences.
How do you foresee the growth in the Indian market which segment and which parts of the country offer the maximum opportunities for youth?
It is primarily from the southern part of India and some from the northern part. With SriLankan Airlines connectivity, we have about 100 flights per week to different Indian cities. The connectivity is excellent. So, it could be better to travel to Sri Lanka than travelling, I would say within India itself.
Are you going beyond MICE to broaden the market, notably destination weddings?
Yes, we are looking at the wedding market and we have quite a few weddings, especially the outdoor weddings. We are taking part in trade shows in India and we also invite Indian MICE agents on familiarisation tours. We had one in 2020 where Indian MICE agents were here and looked at our facilities.
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What are the innovations of novelties in Sri Lanka specifically for MICE?
I think it is the post-event or pre-event tourism aspects. There are lots of things one can do here. The participants can extend their stay in Sri Lanka after the event and also they can bring their families here whilst attending the events. The families, especially in the Colombo city, can do shopping, they can do various tours and from Colombo city centre they are only a step away from the beaches and then maybe three to four hours to select any type of environment that they would like to be in. For example, the hill country, the mountains, the cool climate are just three hours away. Then we have the wildlife again 2-3 hours away, then the archeological sites again 3 hours away. And of course, we have the watersports that again could be about Arugam Bay where it is very famous for skiing and surfing so everything is within easy reach if you want to indulge in pre or post aspects of leisure in Sri Lanka.